Big Body Play
“STOP! Someone is going to get hurt!” “Don’t do that!” “Calm down!” “Don’t be so rough!” How many times have you said or heard those statements? If you have ever spent any time around two or more children you have probably heard those more times than you can count. True? Children love to get rough and physical in their play, it’s just a fact. But, what is big body play and is it necessary? Today, we take a look at Big Body Play written by Frances M. Carlson.
What is big body play? Carlson defines it as, “Rolling, running, climbing, chasing, pushing, banging, tagging, falling, tumbling, rough-and-tumble, rowdy, roughhousing, horseplay, and play-fighting. These are just some of the names that adults give to the boisterous, large motor, very physical activity that young children naturally seem to crave. All are forms of big body play—a play style that gives children the opportunities they need for optimum development across all domains from physical to cognitive and language to social and emotional.” So, there is actually a name and purpose for all that chaos. As you were watching two boys play fighting, did that thought ever occur to you? It sure didn’t to me, a mother of four boys and two girls.
Big body play is started before birth with rolling, kicking, and the waving of arms. This process advances with age into full blown wrestling in the yard. This form of play is utilized by animals as well as humans. Big body play can be done alone, with other children, or even with pets. The activities can include rules and guidelines for structured play or can be a free-for-all. Who doesn’t like a good game of tag outside on a beautiful summer day? When participating in big body play, endorphins are released that make us feel good. Play makes us happy. We all want to be happy. But, are there other benefits for supporting big body play?
There are numerous positive effects of physical play on health. A child’s gross motor skills develop during big body play. They develop body awareness and learn the limitations of their body. Their coordination is honed during this play time. They develop control of movement and balance. Relationships are formed. They become more fluid in their movements and less clumsy. The health of the child is also improved through physical activity. Social and emotional skills are developed. Verbal and non-verbal communication skills are developed. The lists of benefits go on and on.
“But I’m afraid of my child getting hurt,” says the concerned parent. Neither Carlson nor I recommend just allowing your child to have an unsupervised free-for-all. Children are still learning their physical limitations; so, of course, supervision is the key to a successful session of big body play. I found, in my children’s big body play that these fun times often ended when someone got hurt. The “hurt” was never serious and a few minutes later they were back at it again. The only difference during the later play is that they now knew what caused the hurt. Step up and lay ground rules, join in with the activity, oversee the fun times, and most importantly laugh and have fun. We are only kids once and big body play is where we found our greatest joy.
Author: Belinda Davis